It’s always a good sign when a studio disc has the unbuttoned verve of a live album. From the first spin on, Spiritman conjures that vibe. Steve Turre doesn’t go out of his way to bend trad rules or implement innovative thematic notions. In a move that’s overtly steeped in the blues lingo and funk flavoring that have fueled many of his recent dates, the esteemed trombonist makes a dent – not exactly easy for a mainstream swing session in 2015. But by fanning the flames of his ensemble and making sure he brings the fire when it comes time to solo, Turre catches a spark.
In case non-New Yorkers don’t know, Smoke is an uptown club that’s become a bastion of this kind of heat. Turre, who always seems to be on a bandstand somewhere (he remains part of the Saturday Night Live crew) has found a welcoming home there, and his shows are known to be ardent affairs. Spiritman parallels that vibe. It’s an album rich in panache. The string of records Turre has made in recent years have been substantial in chops and execution, if mildly routine the vision and innovation department. This new date, made with a savvy quintet, has a bit more splash all the way around. From the bounce of Gerald Cannon’s bass to the vigor of Bruce Williams’ reeds, the action is taken up a notch.
The book is largely standards – perhaps ho-hum on paper – but the leader’s esprit is infectious, and the group (drummer Willie Jones III, and pianist Xavier Davis round out the band) rises to each new challenge, whether it’s injecting “It’s Too Late Now” with a fervent demeanor or giving “Trayvon’s Blues” an irresistible groove. Throughout, Turre’s brass mastery sits front and center. Look no further if you want to hear why he’s so respected in the jazz community.